In this article we have used Jeff’s research to understand self-compassion, what it is and how you can improve your own self-compassion. To read the full article click the button below.
Self-compassion is described as pausing to acknowledge our own suffering and acknowledging that we are not perfect. Self-compassion is being kind to ourselves, wanting to be healthy and have positive wellbeing, it leads to proactive behaviour to better our situation. Self-compassion doesn’t mean that you think your problems are more important than others, it just means you think that your problems are also important and worthy being attended to.
Self-compassion is associated with feeling satisfied with life and having a sense of feeling socially connected to others. Both are also closely connected with resilience and overall mental health.
The research on having self-compassion tells us that it:
- increases the ability to cope with negative emotions
- improves self-confidence
- better control over their emotions
- feel less of a need to socially compare themselves with others
- less likely to have compassion fatigue with others
Tips for building self-compassion
Imagine it is your friend. If you are being too hard on yourself, or you catch yourself being overly critical ask yourself this? How would you treat a good friend, family member, or someone else you really care about if they were going through what you are? What would you say to them? Try then doing that for yourself. Remember, you should be your biggest advocate, not your biggest enemy.
Catch yourself from falling into thinking traps. These are thinking errors that are not helpful. As a matter of fact, ask yourself two things if you catch yourself being overly critical: Is it helpful? Is it accurate?
Black and white thinking. Seeing things in extreme ways: “If I don’t pass this test I’m an idiot.”
Shoulding. Thinking the way we want things to be is the way they ought to be: “I should have been more patient.”
Overgeneralization. Believing that one instance applies to every situation: “I was late for work today, I can’t do anything right—ever.”
Catastrophizing. Thinking a situation is much worse than it is: “A customer got really mad at me today so my boss is probably going to fire me.”
Emotional reasoning. Assuming our feelings convey useful information: “My nervousness about flying means there’s a good chance my plane will crash.”
Controlled breathing practices are a great way of building your resilience and mental health. Simply take a few deep breathes while you put your hand on your heart. Feel your heart and chest area rise and fall naturally. Try one of our simple breathing exercises on our mindfulness page.
When things don’t go our way and situations are beyond our control, it’s our self-compassion, along with our other resilience practices, that will help us get through it in a positive way and regardless of the outcome, avoid us from dwelling on it and getting stuck in a loop of negative actions and thoughts. Instead, self-compassion allows us to be fair with ourselves, learn from it, and go forward.
About Jeff Thompson
Jeff is an Adjunct Associate Research Scientist at the Molecular Imaging and Neuropathology Division of the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center. Additionally, he is a 17-year law enforcement veteran detective with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and a former hostage negotiator. His research includes hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents, suicide prevention strategies, psychological autopsies, resilience and developing positive mental health strategies, and the use of effective communication during crisis incidents.